On February 13, 2020, I started my first day as Office Administrator of the Los Altos History Museum. When I arrived, I was greeted by Executive Director, Elisabeth Ward, who showed me to my workstation with a bounce in her step. Initially, I shared a desk with an office temp who was filling in until a permanent employee was hired. As I learned the ins and outs of my position, I met the core staff: Diane, Dianne, and Amy. They were as bubbly and energetic, and I could tell they genuinely liked their positions; what a nice change from corporate! From day one, after taking many notes, I knew I was going to be challenged in a healthy way to meet my potential.
I was put in charge of office administration and bookkeeping, a dual role I had only encountered when I worked with Ernst and Young. At the Museum, I oversee office operations, like making sure our copier doesn’t break down, and paying/reconciling weekly transitions throughout the Museum’s fiscal year. Try saying that three times fast! I had one day of training with the temp employee, but my prior experience with bookkeeping made it easy to adjust to the hustle and bustle of the Museum’s finances. It also didn’t hurt to have access to five-plus years of financial records; go team for being so organized!
What streamlined my training experience (more than color-coded file organizers), was asking questions. Elisabeth has an open-door policy, so if I had a question about a payment coding, I asked for clarification. If I wanted to know what supplies to order for the office, I popped into Elisabeth’s office and said, “Do you want one, or 100, tissue boxes?” Throughout the weeks, I asked my coworkers questions related to my job as well. For example, Diane trained me on the Museum’s data entry software, DonorPerfect. I was able to ask technical questions about the software and tap into Diane’s insight on coding donations—an enriching experience. What has greatly helped me adjust to this position is the open communications among the staff, and the open-door policy established by Elisabeth; it makes me forget I worked in a corporate setting!
However, with all the great mentoring and growth I’ve experienced, one event posed an obstacle. The COVID-19 pandemic. Just one month after starting my position, the County issued the shelter-in-place order. So many thoughts raced through my head, mainly revolving around my training schedule, meeting project deadlines, and finding ways to creatively work from home. I needed to physically be in the office to perform my office administrator role, and I needed access to the Museum’s mailbox to pay the bills on time. It worried me that I was losing stability in my position. I’ll admit: the first few weeks of working from home felt like a vacation, but I could not hide my struggle to complete my responsibilities. As time passed, I felt a surge of confidence from my coworkers.
Happily, the Museum was able to implement policies to continue my work flow. Elisabeth introduced weekly Zoom staff meetings to keep everyone in the loop and more importantly, let us see friendly faces. Equally impressive, it only took the Museum a few weeks to transfer systems like banking to a digital platform; I could pay bills from my home and have invoices sent directly to me. The email/call correspondence between my coworkers and myself was faster than a speeding bullet and allowed me to deepen my relationship with Museum volunteers. In a way, the COVID-19 pandemic helped to make my early work experience a collaborative one. And now, Elisabeth and the staff are making plans to transition us back to our offices.
Working at the Museum has been a huge success for me. My growth and potential feels limitless, and it’s nice to know that even a pandemic can’t stop it.
Contributed by Andrew Mendoza, Office Administrator